Callum Davidson fears St Johnstone may be “out-priced” in their attempt to keep Guy Melamed at the club.
The Israeli striker, who took several months to adjust to Scottish football before establishing himself in the Saints team, has scored seven goals in 12 starts in 2021.
His one-year contract expires at the end of the season and a “very good offer” has been put to him.
Melamed wants to keep his options open however.
And Davidson suspects the 28-year-old could be able to command higher wages elsewhere.
“We’ve offered him a very good contract and his agent just wants to wait and see,” said the Saints manager. “That’s all we can do. We can’t offer money that’s not there for somebody.
“We have a budget. It’s been a difficult time with Covid and we’ve offered him a really good deal.
“Obviously we can’t be paying out ridiculous money – that’s not what St Johnstone does as we can’t afford it.
“But there are other players out there who we’ll find and have a look at in case he doesn’t stay.”
Davidson added: “Would we like him to stay? The answer is ‘yes’ but we might be out-priced. The fact he’s done so well has probably not helped our cause.
“He’s performed and scored goals at really important times this season. It’s a tough one.
“I knew when he came in that we might only get a year out of him. The one thing none of us knew the extent of was Covid.
“He didn’t get a pre-season, missed a lot of football and it took him a long time to adapt to the Scottish league.
“I still think there’s more to come from Guy if he has a pre-season with us.
“It’s probably out of our hands at the moment.”
A new deal for Melamed may not be imminent but Saints did manage to agree terms with Stevie May and Callum Booth earlier in the week – and others may soon follow their lead.
“I’m pleased with the progress,” said Davidson. “We’re working at it.
“I did say it would take patience and we’re trying really hard to get the right deals done.
“Hopefully we’ll have two or three more by the end of this week as well and then we can look forward to building a squad for next season.”
Ali McCann produced an outstanding performance in the Scottish Cup win at Ibrox on Sunday, further enhancing his reputation as one of the brightest young talents in the Premiership.
Ali McCann's winning penalty 🙌
— St. Johnstone FC (@StJohnstone) April 26, 2021
In an ideal world, Saints would get at least another season out of the 21-year-old Northern Ireland international before the inevitable big move but Davidson, who was sold to Blackburn Rovers at the same age as McCann, knows that money talks.
“This is Ali’s first full season,” he said. “He might move on quickly. It is just about making the right decision for the player himself and for the club if bids do come in.
“It would be to see him get some recognition but for selfish reasons I would like to keep him.
“Sometimes you get an offer for a player you can’t turn down and it is a no-brainer.
“We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
“I think other players have also played to a level.
“If I didn’t get interest in them I would be disappointed for the players because of how well we have done.
“But hopefully we won’t lose too many.”
Since Saints opened up the Scottish Cup by knocking out the runaway favourites, the reality has hit home that a non-Old Firm club is two wins away from bagging European football through to Christmas and an estimated £3 million windfall.
Both are considerable incentives but not greater than the basic age-old sporting one.
“Probably the chairmen will be rubbing their hands at the thought of getting to the final,” said Davidson.
“For the players it is more about trying to achieve something in your career and winning a trophy.
“I don’t think they will give much consideration to what comes after and the European games.
“We will take it obviously but right now it is about getting through to the next round and getting to the final.”
The bookmakers haven’t got Saints down as favourites to lift the trophy on May 22 but you’ll find plenty of people who believe that’s what they should be.
Given Davidson’s side have already put one cup in the McDiarmid Park boardroom and have just beaten the runaway Premiership champions, nobody could claim Saints are flying under the radar.
Hibs and Dundee United – they are probably, for me, the two favourites.
“I wouldn’t say there is expectation on us,” said Davidson. “We have done really well but you look at teams like Hibs and Dundee United – they are probably, for me, the two favourites.
“St Johnstone and St Mirren have both done well to get to the semi-final. The two of us are very similar.
“Expectation is probably more within the group rather than outside it. The players realise there is something there to go and achieve.
“My team talks become really easy. I don’t really need to say a lot as the players all know how they want to go about their business.
“The tempo in training is really good. Having something to play for makes it easy.
“I know the players are going to give 110 per cent. I know they are all going to be staying in as well despite the beer gardens opening!”
Saints face Hibs at Easter Road on Saturday in their third last Premiership fixture and Davidson was quite happy to avoid them in the semi-final draw for that reason.
“It is probably good to not have back-to-back games,” he said. “Although it worked out OK with Rangers.
“Sometimes you can give too much away.
“Hibs are a fantastic team who have had an unbelievable season, sitting in third position.
“They have threats all over the pitch.
“Hibs are probably looking towards the semi-final too but it will be an interesting game.”